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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

righteousness in the scriptures


The righteous shall live by faith is an expression found in the Tanakh, or what Christians call, the Old Testament, and the New Testament in the following: Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.


Briefly, the Habakkuk reference was in the time of Israel’s ongoing assault by her enemies; a time of lawlessness and chaos. The apostle Paul introduces the expression in Romans in order that the saints in Christ might understand that the righteousness which is pleasing to God spans from faith to faith. The Galatians reference is to address the conflict troubling the saints by some who mistakenly wanted to impose on them the law of Moses as a means of righteousness. Lastly, the Hebrews expression is of the saints in Christ who were encouraged to persevere in that righteousness to which they had attained. Is there something about this expression which the saints in Christ misunderstand with respect to other seekers who do not a share similar understanding of scripture?


righteousness from faith to faith


I believe the single, key passage in the above verses is Paul’s words in Romans 1:17. The context of chapter one spans the history of man and man’s response to the evidence in nature which attest to the Divine, Transcendent Creator God. The expression testifies to the fact and reality that the righteousness of God is from faith, as in Abraham or before Abraham (think of Enoch, Genesis 5:24, Noah; Genesis 6)  to faith as in Israel, and now, the saints in Christ. What is this faith which God recognized and esteemed highly in men? Is the righteousness that is according to God and pleasing to God what some saints have enumerated and listed as a key must-do checklist of points?


Although there is precious little said about about Enoch the scripture notes that he, walked with God. The same testimony is given of Noah. (Genesis 6:9) It is also attested of Noah that he was an heir and preacher of righteousness. (Hebrews 11:5, II Peter 2:5) What Noah inherited was what he learned from Enoch, namely, walking with God. Righteousness is what Noah himself preached in the days leading up to the destruction of the flood. Somehow it seems highly improbable that teaching righteousness, teaching others to walk with God or calling men to righteousness is accomplished through anything less than the outpouring of the one teaching. It is most definitely not accomplished through a must-do checklist.


teaching


Could this possibly mean that righteousness and teaching are related? I believe the teaching of righteousness was a part of what Enoch passed on to his descendants including Noah. Similarly, Yahweh was confident of Abraham's faithfulness to command, that is, to teach his children to do righteousness:


For I have chosen him, 
that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,
so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.Genesis 18:19

A similar relatedness between righteousness and teaching was made by Jesus when he admonished the disciples to a righteousness which exceeded that of the Pharisees. (Matthew 5:20) The context of the chapter concerns the commandments of God and keeping and teaching others to do so.


It is with this in mind that the apostle Paul’s words ring powerfully and wonderfully loud for the wonder and awe of the saints as to what God has done.


For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


What do the references we persuade, (II Cor 5:11) the word of reconciliation (II Cor 5:19) allude to if not teaching? What is striking about what Paul states is what Jesus was made and what we have become.


Jesus might not have looked or felt anymore like sin than we look or feel like righteousness,
but that is what he was made and that is what we have become.


We are, that is, we have become, the walking embodiment of the righteousness, the teaching, of the will of God. This reality does not change or vary because of ourselves. Let us not diffuse or diminish the significance of these words with words of our own, "nobody is perfect." The notion of perfection as sinlessness is as foreign to the scriptures as is the doctrine of original sin. This reality of us as righteousness is in spite of ourselves and our fleshly tendencies. It is through the Holy Spirit who indwells us and it is what the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus are called to teach.


a desert scenario
There’s a familiar, age-old query with which the saving message of the gospel is subjected. It is the scenario about the man in the middle of the desert who dies believing in God, but who was never baptized. What’s more, he never knew the God of the Tanakh, the God of the New Testament, the God of the Bible. He never knew the Jesus of the scriptures. This represents a frantic frustration for the saints in Christ. The response from the saints often reveals that despite preaching God’s love and grace for mankind some saints do not see the love and grace of God for those who never heard the gospel.

This gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but Paul makes it clear it was preached long before to Abraham. (Galatians 3:3) I find it powerful that Paul states, The SCRIPTURE, foreseeing . . . preached the good news. (CAPS, gt) The idea that such a man in the desert might never have been baptized or worse never heard of Jesus could be among the righteous who live by faith is more than some saints can bear and it troubles them. It’s not that it takes anything from their own faith or salvation, but that they find themselves at a loss to preach the gospel message of the love and grace of God without apology and with confidence. This scenario is reflects the uneasiness of some saints concerning their teaching. It also reflects the (self) justification of others to take their stance against anything they regard as a work in favor of a claim of faith. However, this is mistaken.


conclusion


The reason it is mistaken is because the righteous who live by faith do not dismiss the will of God because they have believed in God, or even more, because God has reckoned their faith as righteousness. Rather, they submit themselves to fulfill the commandment of God. Jesus submitted to the baptism of John in order to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15) Abraham did not dismiss circumcision on the basis of his belief in God when God commanded it of Abraham. He did not dismiss God’s command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice because he believed God. Moses and Israel never dismissed circumcision because they had come to the knowledge of I AM, THAT I AM.


What Abraham, Moses and Israel never did concerning circumcision or animal sacrifices as works, - some believers are quick to do concerning baptism as a work. The proverbial man in the desert upon learning the will of God for him whether it were circumcision, baptism or something other would be no quicker than Abraham to do as God commanded because of their belief in God. Furthermore, WERE HE TO DIE after having lived by faith and never known either circumcision,.baptism or something other, he is a child of the kingdom. He will be received by the Father. Yes, this truth may be as hard and as disdainful for some saints as it was for the Jews to hear Jesus declare Zacchaeus a son of Abraham. However, it is according to the love and mercy God has extended to those who seek and love him. They are the righteous who live by faith. We, the saints in Christ, are similarly called to live by faith, not in spite of our faith and trust in Jesus, but because of it.

Peace to all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Indwelling of Deity in Jesus

(How the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer.)

look to Jesus


I have a fundamental approach to questions and subjects which either I do not understand or I am ready to examine for a better understanding. I look to Jesus for what he said and what he did in order to gain insight and understanding. There are different approaches which people have developed to help with their understanding. One is to rank deity, such as: The Father is first, the Son is second, the Holy Spirit is third. The net result of ranking hierarchy to create a simplified approach of the subject of deity is that it does nothing to enhance the understanding of the saints on the indwelling of deity.

Hence, the specific, sole focus of the saints on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is misplaced from the beginning not because of the tertiary status of the Holy Spirit among the deities of Father and Son, but because the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is viewed as separate and different from the indwelling of the Father and the Son in the believer. Even worse is that while these different approaches do not weigh God down they trouble some saints even while others boast about the gift of God living in them. So, I hope my intention to encourage the saints comes as result of the message of this article.


In the interest of brevity I will refer to only two views often given in response to the question of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Essentially, these are two views which express some believers’ understanding of the Holy Spirit in relation to the believer. I do not claim nor have I attempted to present those views at length. Certainly, I wish neither to malign nor disparage those saints who are represented by these views. Impersonally, there is little to be gained from trashing any view while at the same time there is an opportunity to share and build understanding. These two views express the belief that the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer.


two views


The first view is that the Holy Spirit, dwells in the heart of the believer. This is not an empty claim. Some of the biblical support for this view is taken from the beginning of the earliest preaching of the gospel by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. Those who heard Peter’s message and repented were baptized in accordance with Peter’s instruction, . . . for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) There is a mistaken seeming simplicity and thoroughness in this view to which I will come back later.


A second view is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer and he does so through the word, that is, the written revelation of the will of God. This view, too, draws from a number and variety of scripture passages and as much as the discussion of these two may take on heated overtones they are nonetheless true to scripture:


and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:5,6


Quite simply, the love which was poured out into the heart of the believer occurred at the time the Holy Spirit was given to him/her; a gift, that is the Holy Spirit, who was received (see first view) when those who believed the WORD obeyed the word(s) and responded in faith to those words.


The first view merely asserts when (which opens up to another discussion question, namely, the significance of baptism, but also a question not without an answer) the Holy Spirit was received by the believer. The second view asserts how the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. However, here is the fallout from the mistaken ranking and simplification in which the Holy Spirit is the sole focus and which is overlooked by the saints in Christ, namely,


the significant truth that, both, the Father and Jesus dwell in us as well as the Holy Spirit.


the indwelling of deity in Jesus: proof


Foremost for me in the need to encourage the saints on their understanding of the indwelling of deity in the believer is to give thanks to Jesus because of what he revealed concerning himself and the Father. Did Jesus ever make any claims about deity indwelling him? The fact is Jesus did make claims about deity indwelling him and he was quite specific about those claims.


9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. 11  Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 12  Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.


Jesus affirmed to Philip in John 14 that not only did


1) the Father dwell in Jesus , but
2) that Jesus dwelt in the Father.


Additionally, He said that Philip and the disciples had seen the Father. What was the proof of the indwelling of the Father which Jesus gave to Philip? First, the words and second, the works. These words are the same proof, whether or not it were understood by Philip or it is understood by the saints today. It is that which was given for the ages to the saints in Christ by the Spirit of Jesus to reassure and affirm the faith and conviction of the believers in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus was confident about living on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.


But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4


He told the disciples what he knew about the effectual power of words.


It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. 64  But there are some of you who don’t believe.” John 6:63

The close association between spirit and word from Proverbs:


Turn at my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you,
I will make known to you my words. Proverbs 1:23


Our struggles to understand how the Father dwelt in Jesus and Jesus dwelt in the Father we are no different than the struggles experienced by Philip. We even mimic his frustration: Lord, just teaches us how the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Yet, Jesus himself reveals to Philip as well as to us something simple and profound. Namely, it is the eternal nature of his words and the temporal nature of his works, that is, his miracles.

This proof of the indwelling of deity through the word is quite different from the proof some saints offer concerning the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. The problem is really of little consequence inasmuch as these views have no bearing on the salvation of the believer. However, there is something significant which  arises. It is the carnal attitude of trumping one another other and the exalting of self. Suddenly, the seemingly harmless ranking of deity is revealed in the carnal behavior of the believers.


the claims of the saints


Saints who cheerily profess they know the Holy Spirit indwells them because of the joy they feel reveal a disconnect between their response and the response of Jesus to Philip. There is a similar disconnect with the words of Jesus among saints who joyfully profess they know the Holy Spirit indwells them because of those moments of unrestrained emotional ecstasy into which they throw themselves when the saints assemble  in praise to the Father.


The common element between these two seemingly disparate views is that they offer nothing more than claims whether about one's understanding or one's feelings, but without the certainty of a biblical basis. They have no response to the nonbeliever’s claims that the Holy Spirit indwells him/her because they are spiritual or they feel spiritual, they pray or they are charitable.


This is the effect of dismissing the significance of words which Jesus regarded as essential and valuable and the means by which He made known the will of the Father to Philip and all the disciples. Words were the proof Jesus gave Philip as to his claim that the Father dwelt in him and Jesus in the Father.

The conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) came when he heard and believed the apostle Peter’s words. Those were Peter's words as commanded by the Lord and which resulted in Cornelius and his household believing and obeying the words of the gospel. How is it that these two views can be so devoid of any teaching for the non believer? It is because for all the outward, audible claims of faith in Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in them they have displaced and dismissed the words He has given to the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. They have chosen to rely on their own claims and feelings. The dual unfortunate effect of this is in the lack of confidence it fosters in them as well in those whom they seek to enlighten and encourage in their understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


Whose word(s)


Much is heard about American society being anti-intellectual and while I do not wish to go there I don’t see it as anything new.  It is definitely something which holds just as true of the saints with respect to words even, the word of God. Whether it is quoting and citing the original Greek language of the New Testament or constantly creating and trusting new and fresh, catchy phrases; these can never take the place or create in the believer the same impact as the words and the understanding of scripture. Jesus felt and was quite familiar with the disdain and dismissal of the words he spoke to the multitudes. There was an aversion against hearing and acceptance of the words which he spoke in their presence. Jesus made clear whose words it was which he spoke. The words, he told them,  were from the Father who had given them to the Son for the Son to declare.


The declaration of the revelation of the will of God is what God spoke when He said, Let there be light. The word of God is what God spoke to Moses. It was no less the word of God when Moses repeated what God had spoken. The word of God is what the prophets spoke as being from God. The word of God is what Jesus declared as being from the Father. The word of God is what the apostles spoke as being from the Holy Spirit. It was no less the word of God before, during or since it was written and later, printed. And, in what must make saints who are put off by the concept of a non physical being like the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer through the word, John declared,


The Word became flesh, and lived among us.  (John 1:14)


This is the epitome, much to the consternation of some minds, of spirit becoming flesh even if in outward appearance, only. The word of God is what we saints read silently and out loud for all to hear. The word of God, that is the scriptures,  was at no point along the unfolding and process of history diminished. Until today, ironically, or shamefully, by the saints in Christ when they switched their reliance and trust to something other than the scriptures.


I do not believe the saints intentionally diminish the word of God. Certainly, their intentions can not and do not thwart the will of God. The reason for this state of the word in the church and as concerns the indwelling of deity in the believer is really no different than the disciples who walked with Jesus. They, too, like the saints today, overlooked and misunderstood the words Jesus spoke to them.


teaching and remembrance of words


Jesus said to the disciples he would ask the Father to send the Counselor, also called Comforter and Holy Spirit. He was specific as to the terms by which not only the Father and Jesus but the Holy Spirit too would come to make their home in that disciple:  If a man loves me, he will keep my word. (v 23) How were the disciples to know Jesus’ commandments, that is, his word in order to keep those commandments? They would know those commandments, those words, just as the Holy Spirit carried out his work. This work of the Holy Spirit in them involved the words in them as Jesus said the Holy Spirit would:


  1. teach you all things, and
  2. remind you of all that I said to you.


Jesus revealed to the disciples that the Counselor whom the Father would soon send was already living with them and that he would be in them. How was the Holy Spirit with the disciples if not by the same words which Jesus had spoken to them? These words were what the Holy Spirit himself would soon be using to teach and to bring to the remembrance of the disciples all things which Jesus had taught them.


the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. (John 14:17)


the measure of the indwelling of the Spirit


There are at least four different realities in the life of the believer which the apostle John introduces in his gospel account of Jesus. Which of these realities would we argue are partial, that is, as in not complete or without measure? Is grace or truth (John 1) or eternal life or baptism; which for the time being lets put aside the different realities of baptism _ are any of these partial or anything other than full or fullness?


Yes, there is confusion in the minds of the saints concerning the giftS of the Holy Spirit as much as in the gift of the Holy Spirit. There was confusion and uncertainty for John the baptizer (John 1) as well as the disciples (John 14) as to just who was in their midst. John testified of Jesus, but he readily conceded he did not recognize Jesus. The disciples spent three years with him and still ask Jesus to; “Just show us the Father.”


It is no wonder to hear of my brothers and sisters struggling to understand and distinguish between the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit when those who saw, heard, touched and walked with Jesus did not fully understand.


If the above four realities including forgiveness of sins are not partial but complete and full, how do understand the testimony of the Spirit of those upon whom He has set his seal that He fills those who have put their trust and faith in Jesus? One lesson which we often hear stated and which we cite as an argument against exclusivity is the brother who cast out demons although he did not walk with Jesus. (Luke 9:49) Do we suppose? Have we concluded (actually, we have for the most part) that only those upon whom the apostles laid hands and received gifts such as for healing or casting out demons were the only ones who were useful instruments of the Holy Spirit?


Yes, I am aware. The immediate fearful response filled with uncertainty and not understanding is about those who make all manner of claims to possess that power. There are some who may well have it. There are some who deceive themselves as well as others. Why should we be troubled about either of these if we are confident in our understanding? As confidently as might affirm the one we ought with similar confidence confront the other when we, by the same Spirit, discern their deception.


This a key, fundamental reason why I submitted a thirteen lesson study to my elders and which they accepted entitled, The Indwelling of Deity in the Believer. The beginning of understanding and rejoicing in the gifts of the Spirit is to understanding the fullness of the Spirit, first in Jesus, and secondly, in ourselves.


I would say that it, that is the Holy Spirit (he), is not a matter of measureS, but of a full measure.


I think about what Paul stated in Ephesians 4 that, “. . . to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.” I notice his reference to fill all things and the fullness of Christ.

Then, there is this;


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
16 that He would grant you,according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
I have often cited the latter passage for my brothers and sisters who are given to using one of those expressions coined and minted out of fear and uncertainty, not according to their confidence and knowledge of the scriptures. This is not a blast or a condemnation. It is need to which I am compelled to respond. The expression about how we ought not to “put God in a box” is precisely what Paul, and I, confidently asserted. God has indeed put himself in a box, not one made with human hands, but our God-made, God-given heart.
It is, Paul said, that we may COMPREHEND X by Y by Z of the love of God in Christ; a lifetime task of joy.


conclusion


The words of Jesus speak to believers who profess to walk in the Spirit when in point of fact the Spirit may be with them just as Jesus said of the disciples, but he has yet come to live in them. There is no obscure reason as to why or how the Holy Spirit would not yet dwell in anyone except that they do not understand the words written for their understanding or they have chosen to rely and trust in their own thoughts and feeling without a biblical basis. This is because they have diminished and dismissed the significance of the words of the Father as spoken by Jesus and as taught to us and continually stirred up for our remembrance by the Holy Spirit, Father and Son who live in us.

This is not to say the believer has to learn book, chapter and verse for everything he says lest the Holy Spirit cease to dwell him or her. Such a distortion of the power of the living word of God as to think of it as book, chapter and verse would likely have a distorted view of the righteousness of Abraham. A distortion of the word of God in the believer which equates it with the Bible scholarship of book, chapter and verse also distorts diminishes and distorts the righteousness of Abraham. How many times have we heard the claim that Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister? This claim reflects a serious misunderstanding about Abraham's righteousness before God, but also about the righteousness of the saints before God. Abraham did not stand or fall on his sin of lying about Sarah anymore than the saints in Christ for whom Christ was made to be sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God.


For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (II Corinthians 5:21)

The call of heaven as concerns the word(s) of God is above and beyond personal honesty and sincerity. It is a call to be grateful and be faithful with His word. The word, that is Holy Spirit, Father and Son  in the heart of the disciple, is that the saints might have life and have abundantly with joyful confidence that deity dwells in us.


Peace to all.